Play outside: Developing a love for nature

Provided Photo

Andy Paluch
100 MILES 100 DAYS

The current generation of children spends less time outside than any other generation in history, and that’s a really big deal! As long as there have been people, we have grown up playing outside. Play, and particularly free, unstructured play, is fundamental to our physical, mental and social development. It’s how we learn to interact with one another, solve problems, invent games, and imagine new worlds. It’s also how we learn to measure ourselves against the physical world around us; how we build motor skills and stay fit; how we learn to evaluate and take appropriate risks. Perhaps even more importantly, the outdoors is where we connect with and develop a love for nature.

While we’re spending less and less time outside, we are also spending much more time exposed to digital media, staring at screens, and typically doing so while sitting down indoors. One study found that just since 1980, children now spend half as much time outside as they used to*. This relatively recent switch in behavior is having a profound effect, not only on children but on adults as well. The benefit of being outside and active on our physical health is only the start of it; numerous studies have also shown that time spent outside has a positive effect on depression and anxiety, as well as reducing stress and improving symptoms of ADHD.

Not only is spending time outside great for us personally, it’s also great for our communities. In Rutland, we’re fortunate to have festivals and events that bring the community together in the great outdoors. Every day, though, there are little opportunities to build and strengthen community just by being outside. Whether it is spending the evening on your porch, waving to neighbors, or taking the extra 20 minutes to walk to work in the morning, sometimes spending time outside lets us slow down just enough to connect with one another.

The vision of Come Alive Outside as a nonprofit organization is to help individuals, families, and communities enjoy the full benefits of great outdoor spaces where they live, work and play. Here in Rutland County, we partner with a variety of organizations that share a commitment to this vision, including the Rutland Regional Medical Center, Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum, Rutland Rec, Carpenter and Costin, the Downtown Rutland Partnership, local schools, and many others.

We’re excited to bring a program here to Rutland this summer that we produce in communities across the U.S. and Canada called the Green Street Challenge. It’s an opportunity for cities and towns to celebrate the importance of unstructured play by laying sod over a prominent downtown street to create a temporary park for the day. We plan to lay over 5000 square feet of sod on Center Street during Friday Night Live on July 21, creating a green space where children and families can play, and also creating greater awareness of the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity to get outside and active in our everyday lives! That night the sod will be taken back up and donated to a permanent location in the community the following day. We hope you’ll come out to play! If you’d like to volunteer to help create the space, please contact Andy: andy@comealiveoutside.com or 440-525-6076.

* msue.anr.msu.edu/news/the_consequences_of_children_spending_less_time_outdoors

Andy Paluch, program director for Come Alive Outside